Grape Destinations: The Human Touch at Mendocino´s Anderson Valley
My way to Mendocino´s Anderson Valley was full of surprises. It took an almost-3-hour drive from American Canyon to get to the valley through a beautiful country road. Be aware that in those remote areas, your favorite GPS-style app doesn´t work as properly as in big cities. Yes, you guessed it, I got lost … again. This time, a weak signal on the smartphone made me use common sense. I realized I should go to the first postal office, fire or police station available. In an area like this, they know all the places, and even the nicknames and pet names of everyone in town. In Philo, a small and peaceful town, I got my answer. Some minutes later, I was in Roederer Estate Winery.
The hills, the sea-infused cool air, the soil and the weather are great conspirators for the vineyards. The passion for wine in people like Saffron Blue Fraser, our host, made the trip so worthwhile.
Bubbles are a must at Roederer Estate, considering the roots of its Champagne heritage. After a long drive, in fact, they are imperative. So I started tasting a RE Brut N/V, a cuvée of chardonnay and pinot noir, that resembles Anjou pears and crisp green apples. The grapes used in the cuvée are sustainable, organically farmed, as are all the grapes used in their wines. They even have 22 acres just for biodynamic farming. Roederer, organic grapes, winemaking by Arnaud Weyrich … all promised a sparkling afternoon.
As I went through the grape-receiving area, Saffron explained the importance of commitment that Roederer Estate has for their sparklers. “Our wines are Champagne-style to extremes,” she said as we walked around the cellar, the big stainless-steel vats, and even the bottling and labeling areas. There, two ladies were labeling bottles with such graceful manner that I realized that not all the robotics in the world can take the human touch away. I will embrace that image.
Then I tasted the RE Brut Rosé, one of my favorites from this winery and L´Ermitage 2011. This is the prestige cuvée, made only in fabulous years, when nature provides all elements for grape varietals to express their beauty in a glass. The delicate string of bubbles, some rich vanilla notes, and that soft apricot aftertaste made me wonder if you can clone this unique experience.
There is a wine that caught me off guard after all the whites. It is RE 2015 Pinot Noir. The aromas were subtle but expressive, red berries, cherries, some sulfur notes open the senses to soft tannins, harmonious fruits and a great example of terroir. This pinot noir is only available at the winery in Mendocino or for those of you on the continental USA via Internet shopping. I´m not included in that, so I bought some to take home in my luggage. For that, remember always to pack some wine sleeves. They’re so handy.
After the visit, I stopped to grab a bite at the Lemons Philo Market on Highway 128, the same road as Roederer Estate. A nice little place with personality. It took me down Memory Lane.
Then, I went to Domaine Anderson, a winery with great personality. The chardonnays and pinots we tasted ranged from 2013 to 2015. The winemaker is Larrin Low, who makes California-style wine with terroir in mind. Remember the Pinot Noir 2013 from Dach vineyard.
After some adjustments, the GPS lady from the app took me around another quicker route to American Canyon. She really wanted me to see how beautiful Mendocino is, very genuine and in tune with nature. Organic farming at its best!
— Amanda Díaz de Hoyo
Photos: Amanda Díaz de Hoyo